Kill the Wolf
[Strange Famous/Speech Development]
B Dolan might not be a household name but his mastery of storytelling and lyrical prowess are two of the many reasons why he should be. Spitting rhymes for Sage Francis’ Strange Famous Records and a recent addition to Scroobius Pip’s Speech Development label, Dolan is fast becoming one of the most exciting voices in indie hip-hop.
I caught up with him last year for an interview just before House of Bees Vol 3 dropped, which was as great as expected off the back of Volume 2 and his debut LP ‘Fallen House, Sunken City’. Five years on from his debut, his second LP ‘Kill the Wolf’ is a different monster. The beats are heavy and the lyrics are meaner. He has embraced the accompanying band at his live shows and it is reflected right here. Guitars and drums are prominent throughout on top of an array of beats from shit hot producers like DS3K, Alias and of course Buddy Peace.
The album kicks off with ‘Lazarus’ whose guitar and piano intro, over which Dolan shows his talent, accumulates to a Cecil Otter drop (of the Downtree collective) and the beat is relentless to the end. ‘Lazarus’ serves as a perfect opener to the album as it prepares you for what’s to come; lyric heavy, drum and bass layers with synth overlaps. This record is going to rock you from the start and you will suffer from neck pains thereafter.
“They say that a work of art is an uncommitted crime, though they paint me as a vandal when I’m out committing mine” kicks off the second track ‘Graffiti Busters’ as Dolan’s beat is accompanied by keys, violin, upright bass and synths that resembles a snake charmer’s pungi, which I shall now coin as “synth charming” (you heard it here first).
‘Stay Inspired’ hits us next with the instantly recognisable Buddy Peace beats and cuts, running a perfect backdrop for B Dolan to showcase the prowess I mentioned earlier. His dominance of the mic is evident as it runs to an a cappella finish. Dolan’s use of the live band sound mixed with the synths and cuts are continued in ‘Safety’ and only cement the fact that his live show needs to be checked out. ‘Safety’ also features the vocal talents of Kathleen Stubelek of Circle Takes the Square, a hardcore band who Dolan has played with in the past. Not many rappers would tour with metal bands but having seen him live a few times I can imagine he goes down a fucking storm.
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Jailbreak is one of the singles already released from ‘Kill the Wolf’ and admittedly I was disappointed on my first listen. It features Aesop Rock, one of my favourite artists and I was not expecting what came out of my speakers. Having listened through the album countless times over the last week the track now stands out as a welcomed change. This is an rock tune. I wasn’t expecting it, two of my go-to lyricists get together, I was expecting a beat heavy mastery of sound. This is a rock track featuring Warren Borg (or Worgie, half of WarrenPeace, with Buddy) on guitar and the vocal capabilities of the late great Dave Lamb from indie rock duo Brown Bird. Dolan, Buck 65 and Aesop Rock all kill their verses and once I got past the initial shock of an actual rock song coming at me, I warmed greatly to the album’s halfway mark.
‘Run the Machine’ contains dark, horror-esque synth from Aupheus and is the grimiest track on the album. The beat drags you through the five minute length at ferocious speed as if pulling you by your hair as you kick and scream in an eerily enjoyable way. All this as the distorted hook “Who got their teeth in you?” rings through, this is one to crank up and let the evil in (or out).
The master story-teller plies his trade once more in ‘Rats Get Fat’ just as he has done in albums and mixtapes before, taking the life of someone and relating it to a bigger message. In this case he tells the legend of Mouse Tower and Hatto II, the Archbishop of Mainz. As Dolan puts it himself Hatto was “the most vicious, wicked Archbishop rich from the grain that the farmer gave… while half the village was naked and sick, he was King Shit, God’s own hypocrite”. The legend still rings true today and comparisons to “the man” and their power and control over us, until enough is enough. We are not the 1%, we hold the power, yet “rats get fat while great men die”. This may not be as obviously political as ‘Film the Police’ or ‘Which Side are You On?’ but it holds the same level of significance and purpose as those before it.
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When the track list was announced for the album I lost my shit over the inclusion of ‘Who Killed Russell Jones’. B Dolan’s spoken word anthems have always killed at live gigs and this one is probably my favourite. Dolan uses the tragic death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard to tell a story of the life of the performer, the highs and lows of stardom and the eventual decent into drugs and his death. Dolan asks who is to blame? The Wu Tang Clan, managers and record execs, the judge, the owners and promoters of clubs or the fans? The live version on the album was also recorded in Dublin and has music by Cars & Trains.
Said the fan
In his Wu-Tang shirt.
“I love Big Baby Jesus! Dirt McGirt!
The Old Dirty Bastard! The absolute best!
He Kept It Real!
He was a real mess…
He came from the Projects and I never been there…
But I imagine there’s a lot of people like Him there…
The Wild, Savage, Black!
The Unchained Natural Talent, Crack!
The modern day… Minstrel Act?
It’s so sad that he’s gone, I wish he were alive!
I played his CD on the day that he died!
I bought an R.I.P. t-shirt from a store window!
Pretty sure the proceeds go to his widow!
He was a real hero, and all heroes fall
And I guess you can’t blame…
No one at all.
The second single released (after ‘Who Killed Russell Jones?’) is ‘Alright’. Here is B Dolan at his usual best with high octane drums and beats scoring his complex lyrics. The video is slightly, but artistically, NSFW so viewer beware if you are reading this at your cubicle.
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This is Dolan at his mightiest and an example of this control and ability on the mic. The intensity at which he spits lyrical is insane and was one of the reason I got into him all those years ago.
He finishes off the album with two more sombre numbers. ‘Memories of Bombs’ and ‘These Rooms’. The former is one of the stand-out tracks on the record. It oozes emotion and heart. He deals with the familiar themes of aggression and violence, police brutality and the feelings that arise from it, and within it. These feelings won’t fade away. The damage is done. Stubelek lends her voice yet again for the chorus here and she adds volumes to an already great track.
“This is not a place of honour, these are our danger markers, don’t mistake this grave as a monument, stay clear don’t build or farm on it, what we buried down there will remain harmful, for ten thousand years, long after we’re gone” “Your life is a second in the memory of bombs, buried under this town”
The record finishes up with ‘These Rooms’, an insight to life on the road and the possible brevity of the life itself. He strips the glamour and glitter away from the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and tells of the hotel hopping with rooms that “don’t know our name, where we been or why we came and they don’t care, cause they don’t change when we leave here we leave no trace, at all”.
“You could trash the place but if you break it then you buy it and they just replace it with a one just like it, yeah, they replace it with one just like it”
There’s vulnerability in this track, he paints a picture of solitude and exhaustion while leaving his heart on the stage and maybe a fear that if you “break” you can just be replaced with someone just like you.
This track can be seen as a look at the life in the music industry or life itself and you will not forgive Dolan for leaving you with a head full of thoughts at the end of this record. Fatality, futility, passion and thanklessness. Everything you don’t want to think about, but relevant to absolutely everyone, be it a legend on the stage or a paper pusher in an office. These common vulnerabilities connect us all and resonate across the board.
It’s been five years in the making but ‘Kill the Wolf’ was worth the wait. I am struggling to find negatives with this album. It might not have a level of playfulness that himself and Buddy Peace brought on the last two mixtapes but this is a maturer piece of work. This is a five year hard slog of a record. You can feel the time and work put into it and he kills it.
He has announced his ‘Kill the Wolf’ tour dates and is hitting Dublin’s Workmans Club on September 29th and his live show is a must see. Come witness the greatness with me.